Refreshing the Memories of Jangarh Singh Shyam – An Artistic Soul Lost to the Sands of Time
Lanka - the majestic, magnificent abode of Ravana sculpted with gold! This golden abode used to be Ravana’s prized possession and why not, for his abode was created by none other than Lord Vishwakarma himself, the Lord who is revered as the mighty Divine sculptor and creator in Hinduism. That’s one of the many beauties of Indian culture (Hinduism in particular) that it has a deity for a specific everything. Indra, the God who showers rain; Agni Dev, the God of fire, Vayu Dev, the God who controls wind and the list can go on.
But, let’s keep aside the mythological values and talk about their metaphorical significance. Assigning a God to natural elements is a symbol that nature MUST be valued, respected and above all worshipped for in it lays the supreme power to both create and destroy and that’s the reason why our culture even has an architect-God, Vishwakarma. It’s a metaphor, a message that creation (be it anything, from something as simple as making a pot out of clay to something as intricate as shaping stones into statues), every creation must be hold in the highest regard.
Question to ponder; is that what we are doing or have we uprooted ourselves from our very own cultural values and let down our Gods? We present you a short story about a forgotten artist Jangarh Singh Shyam, a creator, a man of ethics and a man of culture who once awed the world with his talents, but when his art met the sharp-witted, cunning world of commercialisation, Jangarh’s creative mind failed to wrap itself up around the harsh world.
A TRIBUTE TO THE GOND MAESTRO
This Vishwakarma Pooja, Mytr fondly remembers the exceptionally talented, pioneering artist of Gond painting, Jangarh Singh Shyam. There was a time in Jangarh’s life when his art works and creations were celebrated worldwide. He was worshipped among his peers (as should be) and patrons were in awe of him. He was the one who reallocated Gond painting from textile to paper and canvas which ultimately led to the foundation of Jangarh Kalam. Unfortunately, his illustriousness was short-lived for little did he know that the commercialised art industry disguised as opportunity would eat away his talent, his peace and ultimately, his life.
Jangarh Singh Shyam (Image Credits : Wikipedia)
In 2001, Jangarh Singh Shyam hanged himself while still working for the Mithila Museum and though his death stirred up huge din and bustle among artists, the fact remains that India lost one of its semi-Vishwakarma-avatar. India’s cultural terrain is as vivid and diversified as its land and some of its prodigious artists reside among tribes and clans that remain uncovered. It’s almost two decades since Jangarh died but the void he left is irreplaceable.
But Jangarh isn’t the first one to have become a target of commercialisation and until and unless people stop objectifying art and artisans, he is not going to be the last one either. In 2019, The Oxford Student published an interesting, healthy debate propositions on its online platform on the topic ‘Commercialisation ruins Art’ where debaters Isabella Lill and Griffin Pion had some interesting points to illuminate.
Isabella argued that when art starts getting commercialised, especially getting thrust into private art museums, no one really gets to enjoy it. On the opposition was the argument of Griffin Pion who stated that commercialization of art certainly has its own problems but it should be seen as one more way in which art holds a mirror up to a human nature. Both Isabella and Griffin are right from their own perspectives because after all even an artist’s gotta eat. They too got families and expenses.
In the history of art, there are many examples where artists ended their own lives either of their inability to handle the pressure of commercialisation or because of depression and poverty. So what does one do? How does one commercialize art while still maintaining its integrity, originality and most important of all, how to stop this whole commercialisation overdo charade which doesn’t have to be paid with an artist’s life?
Its answer lies in another art called the ‘art of appreciation’. For far too long, artists have depended on rich patrons, trade fairs and exclusive brands to recognize their art, and when that does happen, the pressure to perform force them to either kill their artistic freedom or to kill them. In both cases, it’s the artisan who suffers the most and that’s not how it is supposed to go. But all this can stop if only we start seeing through the masterpieces as mere objects to adorn our houses and as someone’s earnest attempt to artistically portray their ideas.
We need to look beyond this objectification and celebrate creations, creators and all the tools and materials involved just as we celebrate the Lord of architecture. It’s true that there are people who envision a world where artists can enjoy their creations, their freedom to sculpt, their fame and their money without the dangling sword of commercialization. But that’s still a far-fetched dream as many lost artistic souls are yet to be found and far too many are yet to be saved.
So this Vishwakarma Pooja, the entire team of Mytr humbly requests artisans to give away their hopelessness and take our hand, the hand of their Mytr (friend). Every creating soul is valuable and every creation must be cherished. We also request our patrons to treasure their creations and above all respect their efforts and not to assess their works merely based on the rate-plate. We pray that no shining star like Jangarh or Van Gogh has to put an end to their lives. With all our heart and hard work, we are trying to bridge the gap between art and its monetisation. We are trying to connect art with honest appreciation.
With this hope in our heart that we will be able to save and help many more Jangarh to shine, we pay our tribute and deepest respects to Jangarh Singh Shyam.